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Disney Mobile will roll out its family-friendly cellphone service in June through its Web site and independently operated mall kiosks, then expand distribution in late summer through independent wireless stores, Disney executives said.
Sales through a national retail chain will follow, perhaps in 2006.
To get the products to dealers and consumers, Disney Mobile tapped Brightpoint to provide logistics services such as inventory management, custom packaging, reverse logistics and fulfillment.
For the kiosks operators, Brightpoint will also act as master agent providing accessories, Disney Mobile service plans, activation services, commissions and management expertise.
The kiosks, which will grow to 60 by November, will feature Disney Mobile phones and service on one side and Disney's Mobile ESPN phones and service on the other.
Disney also plans to use a master agent to provide phones and service to independent wireless stores but declined to say whether Brightpoint will be tapped.
Disney executives introduced the Disney Mobile service here at CTIA's Wireless 2006 convention with on-stage fireworks and an appearance by Mickey Mouse. Although they didn't announce service-plan rates, they said all plans would include a Family Center feature that lets parents control their kids' cellphone use and allow them to track the location of their teenage and preteen kids in real time. Family- and individual-rate plans will be offered. Subscribers will also be able to download family-friendly Disney and non-Disney content.
Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group, called Disney Mobile “the first comprehensive phone service for all family members” and “unique” in the cellular industry.
From a Disney Mobile handset or via a PC's Web browser, parents will be able to set usage allowances per child for voice calls, messaging and downloads. Disney Mobile will deliver a message to a parent's Disney Mobile handset when an allowance is exceeded and prevent further phone use unless the parent ups the allowance. Usage allowances, Wadsworth said, prevent “a free-for-all” for the shared minutes available in carriers' existing family plans.
From their handset or PC Web browser, parents will also be able to block their kids' outgoing calls or messages to certain numbers, block incoming calls from certain callers, and block outgoing calls by day of the week and by time of day, such as during school hours. Whatever controls are selected, kids will always be able to call 911, other family-plan users and up to 20 parent-selected “always on” numbers.
Parents can also use their handset or their PC's Web browser to locate their kid's GPS-equipped phone. On their Disney handset or on the PC, parents can view their kids' location, a map of the location and an indication of the accuracy of the location in feet.
A Family Alert feature ensures that kids get a message sent by other family members. A message sent to one or more kids at a time will appear on the main screen of the kids' phones and block phone calls from those phones until the message is acknowledged. The phones also come with family-oriented “canned messages” such as, “What time is dinner?”
For parents with little time, Disney designed an intuitive user interface and simplified rate plans.
The Disney Mobile and Mobile ESPN services operate over Sprint's CDMA 1X network. The first two Disney Mobile phones, available at launch, are from Pantech and LG at $59.99 and $109.99, respectively, with two-year contract. Both clamshell models are “high-quality feature phones” because kids don't want a “kids-look” phone, Wadsworth said.
Although Wadsworth described the phones' functions and services as unique in the industry, he dismissed a suggestion that, if successful, other carriers would offer similar phones and services and erase Disney Mobile's differentiation. “The technology was built around this target and is hard to do,” he said, noting that it took Disney 18 to 24 months to deliver it.
George Grobar, Disney Mobile's senior VP and GM, said Disney “would continue to evolve with a focus on family.”
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